Hospital accused of waiting two weeks to inform family of patient’s death

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – A Delft family is demanding answers and compensation from the Western Cape Department of Health after a relative died on New Year’s Day, but they were only informed of his death two weeks later.

Zipumeze Vava, 48, was transferred to Brooklyn Chest Hospital on 23 November from Eerste River Hospital after he suffered a stroke.

“He could not talk, so we depended on the hospital for updates about his condition,” says brother Lenox Vava, 62.

“We called the hospital almost every day as we were not allowed to visit due to Covid-19.

“On Christmas Day we still asked that they pass a Merry Christmas message and we wished him a happy new year on New Year’s Day.

“We called almost every day after that and the nurses told us that they passed the messages on and that he was on his way to recovery.”

The family was convinced that Vava would be coming home soon and sister Sindiswa Vava made another check-up call last Wednesday.

To her shock, the nurse did not know where her brother was.

“She said she checked all the wards and asked that I wait while she checks on the system,” says Sindiswa.

“She came back and told us that my brother passed away on 1 January and his body is at a mortuary.”

                                            Lenox and Sindiswa Vava claim nurses said their brother was on the mend.

Astonished by the news, she asked how this was possible when they had been calling almost daily and getting updates on her brother’s recovery.

“The nurse said that was all she had for me and the facility manager was rude when I tried to ask for an explanation,” she adds.

The Vava family now owes the mortuary R6800 for storing the body since 1 January.

“The hospital must take responsibility,” says Lenox.

“They killed him and we know that hospitals are working with undertakers to extort money from families like this.

“It was on purpose that they did not tell us so that we will incur these costs, then they share the money.”

Health Department spokesperson Natalie Watlington says they did not have the family’s contact details to inform them of Zipumeze’s death, despite them calling every day.

“The hospital was not in possession of the contact details of the next of kin. Upon reporting the matter to the police, the staff on duty communicated this and believed that the family would be informed at their address.

“Unfortunately, there was no further follow-up as to whether SAPS had informed the family.

“We would like to apologise to the family for the distress. “This has been brought to the attention of the relevant clerks and nursing staff at the hospital to ensure there is no recurrence.”

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